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Folk Cultures: Are They “Endangered Species” ?

April 18, 2012

FOLK CULTURES ; ARE THEY ‘ENDANGERED SPECIES’ ??

 

Most people can easily understand and appreciate  that certain species of plants and wildlife in the natural environment can be endangered and threatened with extinction.   So they usually support   urgent government and private pleas to  take measures to protect  the imperiled natural species.  One only has to recall the popular concern for bald eagles when they were placed on the list of endangered species.

But not many people realize that there are endangered species in the human, social environment  particularly  among folk cultures.  Very rarely do we hear expressions  of concern about the  survival of folk cultures .

 

In a book, Shared Traditions; Southern History and Folk Culture  (University of Illinois Press, 1999) by Charles W. Joyner,  Emmy Campbell, native of  a Sea Island in South Carolina, is quoted, “We have become the new endangered species”.   Professor Joiner commented , “That heritage (Gullah culture) is a source of strength  that has enabled them

to cope with the hail and upheaval of life.  As we drift further and further out upon the sea of modernization, that heritage may be as crucial to our sanity and survival as to theirs.  The Sea Islanders and their folk culture have something precious to offer us if we do not destroy them first.”

 

Polish folk cultures that inspired the likes of Chopin, Moniuszko, Szymanowski, etc. are proving to be of paramount importance  to Poland’s identity today.  When Poland entered the European Union in May 2004, it became part of  twenty five member supra national community with a population  of 450 millon.  It was  a historical landmark of profound proportions, but almost immediately some Poles began to worry about the price that would be paid for joining the European Union which offered greater security and prosperity.  Would national diversity with its varieties of languages, folk traditions,  ways of life, etc.  have to be sacrificed for European unity.  Can a distinctive Polish national culture survive in this new environment with increasing globalization and mass culture.

 

Surprisingly, this concern for not losing authentic Polish culture is being expressed by many young  Polish people  who are engaged in searching for their Polish roots,  so that they can hold on to those elements that make them Polish.  Where does this search lead them to? It leads them to the regional folk cultures.  This trend has been strengthened by the now very popular Warsaw Village Band (Kapela ze Wsi Warszawa) founded in 1997 whose leader Wojciech Krzak stated,  ”After the nightmare of  Communism, we still have to fight for our own identity, and we know that beauty and identity are still in our roots.”

The members of this band traveled into Poland’s countryside, particularly in the  Mazovia region, where they sought out old folk musicians who have preserved the traditional music of the area.  They work like ethnomusicologists recording and  documenting village celebrations and then by experimentation and modern instrumentation create a music called “hardcore folk”.  This band is now gaining acceptance not only in Poland but in Europe, North America and even Asia.  In February 2012 it performed in New York and Vancouver  at the invitation of the composer, Andy Ternstein.

 

The  Village Band of Warsaw, has visited the Podhale region of Poland and performed it lowland music at a Highlander Folk Festival.  It was well received .  This encounter seemed to have encouraged young górale folk musicians  where the regional folk culture is still strong and vital,  to emulate the Village Band of Warsaw. Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka’s “Zakopower”, and Krzysztof Trebunia-Tutka’s “Śleboda” are two musical groups from Podhale  that are captivating   European audiences with their “cool’ music based on  Tatra folk music.  There is no doubt that it is Polish folk culture that will help  assure Poland’s distinct national identity and the identity of  the Polish diaspora.   Therefore, it is important to appreciate and protect Polish folk cultures, that are “endangered species”.  They must not be allowed to become extinct.   “The  Tatra Eagle” which  celebrates its 65th anniversary this year will continue to do its best to assure the survival of Tatra folk culture.

 

Thaddeus V. Gromada, author of the new book, “Tatra Highlander Folk Culture in Poland and America”,  (Tatra Eagle Press, 2012). Also available on Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

FOLK CULTURES ; ARE THEY ‘ENDANGERED SPECIES’ ??

 

Most people can easily understand and appreciate  that certain species of plants and wildlife in the natural environment can be endangered and threatened with extinction.   So they usually support   urgent government and private pleas to  take measures to protect  the imperiled natural species.  One only has to recall the popular concern for bald eagles when they were placed on the list of endangered species.

But not many people realize that there are endangered species in the human, social environment  particularly  among folk cultures.  Very rarely do we hear expressions  of concern about the  survival of folk cultures .

 

In a book, Shared Traditions; Southern History and Folk Culture  (University of Illinois Press, 1999) by Charles W. Joyner,  Emmy Campbell, native of  a Sea Island in South Carolina, is quoted, “We have become the new endangered species”.   Professor Joiner commented , “That heritage (Gullah culture) is a source of strength  that has enabled them

to cope with the hail and upheaval of life.  As we drift further and further out upon the sea of modernization, that heritage may be as crucial to our sanity and survival as to theirs.  The Sea Islanders and their folk culture have something precious to offer us if we do not destroy them first.”

 

Polish folk cultures that inspired the likes of Chopin, Moniuszko, Szymanowski, etc. are proving to be of paramount importance  to Poland’s identity today.  When Poland entered the European Union in May 2004, it became part of  twenty five member supra national community with a population  of 450 millon.  It was  a historical landmark of profound proportions, but almost immediately some Poles began to worry about the price that would be paid for joining the European Union which offered greater security and prosperity.  Would national diversity with its varieties of languages, folk traditions,  ways of life, etc.  have to be sacrificed for European unity.  Can a distinctive Polish national culture survive in this new environment with increasing globalization and mass culture.

 

Surprisingly, this concern for not losing authentic Polish culture is being expressed by many young  Polish people  who are engaged in searching for their Polish roots,  so that they can hold on to those elements that make them Polish.  Where does this search lead them to? It leads them to the regional folk cultures.  This trend has been strengthened by the now very popular Warsaw Village Band (Kapela ze Wsi Warszawa) founded in 1997 whose leader Wojciech Krzak stated,  ”After the nightmare of  Communism, we still have to fight for our own identity, and we know that beauty and identity are still in our roots.”

The members of this band traveled into Poland’s countryside, particularly in the  Mazovia region, where they sought out old folk musicians who have preserved the traditional music of the area.  They work like ethnomusicologists recording and  documenting village celebrations and then by experimentation and modern instrumentation create a music called “hardcore folk”.  This band is now gaining acceptance not only in Poland but in Europe, North America and even Asia.  In February 2012 it performed in New York and Vancouver  at the invitation of the composer, Andy Ternstein.

 

The  Village Band of Warsaw, has visited the Podhale region of Poland and performed it lowland music at a Highlander Folk Festival.  It was well received .  This encounter seemed to have encouraged young górale folk musicians  where the regional folk culture is still strong and vital,  to emulate the Village Band of Warsaw. Sebastian Karpiel-Bułecka’s “Zakopower”, and Krzysztof Trebunia-Tutka’s “Śleboda” are two musical groups from Podhale  that are captivating   European audiences with their “cool’ music based on  Tatra folk music.  There is no doubt that it is Polish folk culture that will help  assure Poland’s distinct national identity and the identity of  the Polish diaspora.   Therefore, it is important to appreciate and protect Polish folk cultures, that are “endangered species”.  They must not be allowed to become extinct.   “The  Tatra Eagle” which  celebrates its 65th anniversary this year will continue to do its best to assure the survival of Tatra folk culture.

 

Thaddeus V. Gromada, author of the new book, “Tatra Highlander Folk Culture in Poland and America”,  (Tatra Eagle Press, 2012). Also available on Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

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